The Lewis and Clark County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to request the June 2, 2020 Primary Election be conducted by mail ballot in accordance with a directive issued by the Governor last week.
Under normal circumstances, the June 2 Primary election would be a polling place election. In a polling place election, ballots are only mailed to voters who have signed up to receive absentee ballots; voters who haven’t signed up for an absentee ballot must go to the polls in person on election day to vote. After consulting with public health experts and emergency management professionals, the Governor determined polling places pose risks for the health and safety of all Montanans.
In the directive, Governor Bullock clarified that in-person voting would still be available, “To be clear: in counties with mail ballots, in-person voting is still permitted. The hope in giving counties the option to invoke mail ballot procedures is to shift the presumption: the default would be that Montanans can vote without leaving home, while the option to vote in-person remains. The opposite presumption exists now, and could pose serious public health risks under the trying and unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The directive further states that postage will not be required for voters to return mail ballots, while giving counties the ability to seek reimbursement for these costs. Additionally, the directive requires counties to establish, implement, and enforce social distancing policies for all in-person voter interactions.
“We are taking this pandemic very seriously and looking at all available options for doing County business during this difficult time,” said Lewis and Clark County Commission Chair Susan Good Geise. “Elections are essential and critical and by making the decision to do a mail ballot election, we are encouraging everyone to vote despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This decision protects voters, election judges and staff while still allowing the publics voice to be heard.”
The decision means anyone actively registered to vote in Lewis and Clark County will automatically be mailed a primary ballot on May 8 to the mailing address on file with the elections office. Those who are not registered, or who need to update their address, have until May 26 to mail in a Montana Voter Registration Application. Registration can be verified online at www.MyVoterPageMT.com or by calling the county elections office at 406-447-8339.
While the shelter in place order is in effect, the elections office is still open, but is limiting occupancy. In accordance with state and federal guidelines, the office recommends citizens take advantage of options to conduct business by phone, email, fax, or mail. More information is available on the office’s website at www.lccountymt.gov/car/elections.
“We appreciate the actions and support of the County Commissioners and Montana’s Governor and are working swiftly to plan for socially-distanced in-person voting,” said Paulette Dehart, Treasurer/Clerk and Recorder and Election Administrator “From line-management to drive-up options, we are thankful that we can provide services that are safe for our voters and our staff.”
For more information about upcoming elections, contact Audrey McCue at 406-439-3592 or firstname.lastname@example.org.